Friday, 20 July 2012

Viking metalwork from the south-west

The Vikings are not normally associated with the south-west of England (e.g. Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset). Although Viking armies raided the region in the 870s, there is no recorded Viking settlement and archaeological evidence for a Viking presence is slim. 

There are, however, a few items of metalwork which suggest Scandinavian cultural influence in the region, and possibly even the presence of Vikings. One such item is this strap-end from Mudford, Somerset, recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme: PAS 'Find-ID' SOM-9ABAE0, and now on display in Somerset Museum. 
(Photo courtesy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Somerset County Council)

This strap-end could have been worn by men or women. It would have been fitted to the end of a waist belt, to keep the ends from fraying and to help guide it through a buckle. 

It's design consists of symmetrical interlace with scrolled terminals and looping, contoured strands. These are positioned on either side of a concave-sided sub-rectangular rib. No animal elements are present, but the origin of the design was an animal as seen from above; the rib representing its torso and the scrolled terminals its spiral hip. 

This decoration reveals that the strap-end is Scandinavian and dates to the late ninth or tenth century.  Similar strap-ends are known from Denmark, and the same design also appears on tongue-shaped brooches from Sweden. Either the Mudford trap-end was made in Scandinavia and imported to England, or it was produced in England in imitation of a Scandinavian fashion. Either way, it provides rare evidence for the presence of Scandinavian dress styles in an area of England normally thought immune from Viking influence. 

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